- 19 Feb 20
Serious adversity has had to be overcome for HMLTD to conjure up an early Album of the Year contender. Drummer ACHILLEAS talks parkas, Nine Inch Nails and dodgy metal bands with STUART CLARK.
They say that second albums are difficult, but HMLTD have had a complete fucking mare trying to bring you their debut one. When Hot Press last met the impossibly well groomed London outfit in November 2017, they were freshly signed to Sony Music and gleefully spending £400,000 on studio sessions, video shoots and trips to the Boots No. 7 make-up counter.
A gig in the Workman’s Club confirmed that the rock ‘n’ roll gods had gifted us a band with the combined might of the New York Dolls, Berlin Bowie, Ennio Morricone (no, really!) and the early ‘80s Blitz Kids scene that was so beloved of The Face.
Charts would be topped, nations conquered and unseemly behaviour got up to on all five continents. Well, that was the plan. What actually happened next was that Sony started getting jittery over the amount of money they were lavishing on six people who had no chance of being the new Oasis or getting a dig out from Ed Sheeran.
“One of the sales people floated the idea of us wearing parkas because it would look more ‘street’ and appeal to lads in the North of England,” their Greek drummer Achilleas winces. “There were plenty of other bands they could’ve signed if they wanted the next Arctic Monkeys. They were nice people, but so totally not on our wavelength. Sony saw something that glittered and looked like gold, but then maybe did some internal Excel sheets and realised that we weren’t going to sell so massively. They were thinking, ‘How can we change these people so the Excel sheets match?’ whereas we were, ‘Change the Excel sheets!’”
Rather than stay at home and lick their wounds, the band who’d started life as Happy Meal Ltd, but soon received a cease and desist letter from Ronald, got themselves over to Colombia courtesy of a grant from the British Council. What they didn’t realise when agreeing to play Bogota’s Rock Al Parque was the proliferation of other bands on the bill with names like Toxic Holocaust, Dying Fetus and High Rate Extinction.
“Yeah, it was very death metal-y,” he laughs. “We arrived at our hotel feeling completely jetlagged and had a big row with a band called Suicide Silence – you don’t have to Google them to know what they look like. It was 11pm, we just wanted to relax and eat and they were hammering away really loudly on the piano in the restaurant. We said, ‘Guys, keep it down a bit’ and they started yelling at us. That was fun – as was the festival, which was free and in this massive open air square. We had 20,000 people watching us, which is our biggest crowd ever.”
Intra-band relations were far more cordial when the chaps opened for Nine Inch Nails on the west coast of America.
“We did two weeks with them, which was wonderful,” Achilleas enthuses. “Trent is a genius and also a very sweet man who picked up on us early on. Half of the Nine Inch Nails audience, which is a lot older than ours, were quite upset by us and the other half were very excited and understood what we are about. Rather than being a ‘Fuck you!’ to them, it was a different way of expressing pretty much the same things that Nine Inch Nails do. Trent obviously got that as well, which is why he invited us along.”
Out this week and worth every one of the eight stars afforded it in Albums by Paul Nolan, West Of Eden sounds like a seamless work of art rock terrorism, but actually couldn’t have been any more cobbled together.
“It’s an assemblage of recordings that span three years,” Achilleas explains. “There are six different studios including our guitarist Duke’s bedroom. The version of ‘Mikey’s Song’ is the ninth we’ve recorded. We were searching our Google Drives for vocal tracks from 2017. The anxiety of piecing things together that don’t necessarly make sense is what gives the record its edge.”
Did they at any point think, “Enough’s enough, let’s throw the diamante towel in and see if our McDonald’s pals have any shifts going?”
“Calling it a day was never an option,” he insists. “Getting the record done was something we had to do. I literally feel like I’ve left part of my soul in there. You can’t go through all we’ve been through and just leave it because the money’s run out or you’re not getting as many interviews as before. And, you know what, all that shit does make you stronger!”
- HMLTD’s West Of Eden is out now